Thursday, 28 May 2009

Togs from Bogs - have you ever seen this?

I just realised that it's been ages since I last posted something textile-y that is nice and old... so I picked something out at random.
Here you go:

Have you ever seen something like this?


It's a very special textile, but not a proper garment. It seems to be a mix of a burial shroud and a grave garment. You can see the armscyes and a neckopening, and the legs were covered with the leg parts. I'm always reminded a little bit of a baby's romper suit, though the wearer of this expensive, patterned silk lampas certainly didn't romp about anymore, and the piece can have covered only his front.

The piece comes from the grave of Rudolf IV, died 1365. This object is really one-of-a-kind; we know normal garments worn normally in death (especially when accidents happened in bogs), we have lots of proper garments used as shroud textiles in Herjolfsnæs, and we have special grave garments that are only basted together, but still follow the normal tailoring scheme more or less. There is no parallel that I know of for Rudolf IV's shroud/garment. It's the time of short men's jackets and tight-fitting hose. Maybe that was the reason why they cut into a large piece of perfectly fine lampas for some fake tailoring - to have a quick yet costly-looking and representative burial dress for the corpse. He died in July in Milano, and the corpse was transported to Austria to bury it there, so it's possible to imagine why dressing it in proper garments might not have been possible anymore, which would be another reason for a special solution like this.

Whatever the cause, it still looks splendid, and I can easily imagine that when the cloth was used back in 1365, it was fit for a representative burial. And for us today, it tells a bit more about the possibilities and the ingenious solutions of burial problems in the middle ages - the dead body has to represent status, wealth, position, rank, not only until the grave, but right into it. And this has to be achieved no matter if the dead is already decomposing or not...

Picture source: MARINI, PAOLA, NAPIONE, ETTORE und VARANINI, GIAN MARIA (Hrsg.): Cangrande della Scala. La morte e il corredo di un principe nel medioevo europeo. Venedig 2004, page 127.

Oh, and by the way, this is post number 100 in this blog - so happy hundredpostiversary!


cathyr19355 said...

I have heard of such "fake" display garments in burials before. There's a 17th century burial of royal children somewhere in Eastern Europe that involved partial garments without fastenings--I don't remember the country or exact details, but I own a copy of the NESAT in which the article about it appeared, so I could track it down if you like.

Rudolf's robe is the oldest "fake" burial finery find I've heard of; thanks for posting it.

By the way, congratulations on your 100th post!

a stitch in time said...

Yes, burial garments with basted seams or "quick-and-dirty" methods used liberally are not uncommon, not only in Eastern Europe. After all, the garments just need to look like proper ones, covering front and sides of the corpse, and there's no need to make them fully functional.

Thanks for your offer of tracking down the article, but I think I've also got the article somewhere. And thanks for the congratulations, too!

Christine Carnie said...

I have been hunting down evidence for this for a couple of years, Tracy Justus has just posted the link to your blog on Age of the Cotehardie, thank you so much for this article!